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Duplicate content – Google speaks

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Tuesday December 19, 2006 )

How search engines view, discern and handle duplicate content is a concern for many webmasters and site owners. Yesterday, Google sought to somewhat address the issue and clarify the situation regarding the do’s and dont’s of duplicate content.

In a nutshell, Google advises:

a) Use robots.txt to block googlebot from printer friendly versions of pages (I assume the robots exclusion meta tag is also acceptable)

b) Use 301 redirects if you have restructured your site

c) Keep internal linking formats consistent

d) Use TLD’s (top level domains) for country specific content (note: in my opinion, it also helps to have country specific content hosted on a server in that particular country if you can).

e) This is an interesting one. If you allow other sites to reproduce your content, Google advises to ensure they link back to the *original article* on your site; rather than just the site itself. I previously believed as long as there was a link back to your site or a section of the site, that was sufficient and the behavior I’ve seen still suggests this; but who am I to argue :). Tip: try not to allow people to reproduce your content until the article is listed in Google’s index. Again, this is my opinion, not one expressed by Google.

f) www vs non-www. Let googlebot know which you preferred indexed. Canonical issues can be rectified through .htacess using a 301 redirect

g) Be careful with the length of common texts that appear throughout your site, such a header or copyright blurb. (note: if you do have relatively lengthy boilerplate blurbs and you feel they are necessary, ensure there’s enough original content on each page to offset it – this is my opinion, not advice expressed by Google)

h) Remove pages without content from your site, including stub pages.

In regards to the problems caused by scraper sites; Google says that you shouldn’t lose too much sleep over it; as it’s highly unlikely they can cause your site’s rankings any harm.

Another interesting point for those of you with the time and resources to spare – Google treats the same content in different languages as being different content. So, you could have an article in English, French, Spanish, Dutch etc. and they would all be treated as different articles; allowing you to cast your net to a wider audience without fear of duplicate content penalties. Could be a good strategy for increasing traffic as long as you can also somehow deal with inquiries in different languages

A word of warning – use professional translation services if you’re going to head down this path. While some of the free text translation services available are useful, they usually only give you a good idea of what the text is about. I’ve seen some translators spit out stuff that was nearly unintelligible and at times quite insulting :).

Without professional translation, the page might attract visitors via search engine results, but it may also send them packing once they hit the page – never to be seen again; and there’s not much value in that.

Read the full post on Google Webmaster Central

Learn more about using 301 redirects

Learn more about robots.txt and the robots exclusion meta tag.

Read more about search engine optimization


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